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PCs receiving new looks, features

Netbook computers are seen on display at Best Buy in Mountain View, Calif.

AP photo

SEATTLE — Personal computers are changing — and not just because of the recent launch of Windows 7. Visit an electronics store and you might also find laptops are missing a familiar component. You could experiment with new ways of controlling some computers. And you’ll see portable PCs slimming down.

Here’s a look at what the season’s computer trends mean for you.

• We’re over drives.

Computers have come with “optical drives,” slots for CDs or DVDs, for years. But one of the biggest lessons from the craze for “netbooks” designed mainly for browsing the Web is that people were so excited about the small, easy-to-carry size that they didn’t miss having a CD or DVD drive.

Taking out the optical drive doesn’t significantly lower prices, but it does let PC makers design much thinner laptops.• Good enough is plenty.

It might sound impressive when a PC sales pitch mentions multicore processors, state-of-the-art graphics chips, 4 or 6 or 8 gigabytes of memory and hard drives with a terabyte — 1,000 gigabytes — of storage. But another thing netbooks showed is that with a few exceptions having lots of PC power is overkill.

Go for more power only if you watch high-definition TV and films, or edit HD home movies.

• Everything’s getting carried away.

People want Internet access all the time, and PC makers are betting “smart” phones aren’t big or ergonomic enough for anything more complex or time-consuming than a quick e-mail reply.

PC makers are teaming with mobile carriers to sell netbooks that cost as little as $99 as long as the buyer subscribes to a wireless data service.

• Hands-on has its place.

In 2007, the iPhone made “multitouch” mainstream.

Now the PC is in on the action. Windows 7 includes more support for multitouch applications, making some basic touch commands work even on programs that weren’t designed for it.

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